A new public–private partnership (PPP) model, that is, hybrid annuity model (HAM) was introduced in 2016, to revive investments in the Indian highway infrastructure and to remedy the troubled relationship between the public and private sectors. This model marked a significant policy departure in the management of long‐ and short‐term public interest, which is inherent to public utilities and service delivery. Through a dispassionate lens, this paper critically examines the extent to which HAM has fulfilled its stated objectives. The analysis of project award data provides mixed empirical evidence of HAM's early success. As a positive policy imperative, HAM has been able to attract private participation in highway infrastructure by readjustment of risk allocations, and hence, it is a welcome step forward in improving public affairs. Worryingly though, HAM also brought about extensive de‐risking of the private sector, with evidence of rendering risk retention, that is, “skin‐in‐the‐game” by the less significant private infrastructure investors, and thereby adversely impacting development priorities. We find that HAM has taken the reengagement of private sector two steps back in management of PPP affairs. Recognizing that a true performance assessment is unlikely at this early stage of HAM introduction, the paper adopts a more analytical stance in identifying possible pitfalls based upon the telltale signs presented by project bidding and award data. This study offers fresh insight and course correction on the role of government and other stakeholders in this newly introduced PPP template.